Thursday 10 March 2022

DDR, the 8th year

The above picture (as a 7th credit play in a non-stop run) best describes my current DDR progress.

I never expected myself to pass Endymion again...not after 2020 where I almost dropped playing for 2 whole years (and instead spent time clearing Ring Fit), but I did it a few days ago and in a relatively easy fashion somehow. The question is how?

There are some clearly dropping metrics when you don't play for a long time. You become worse in reading hyper speed charts: in my case BPM 450-500 boost ~= BPM 680-750 normal is now hard for me. Instead I have to resort back to BPM 400-460  boost. Another problem arises is the difficulty in reading densely packed charts especially when you lowered the speed multiplier. Songs like A4A or Cosy Catastrophe could be harder. The last problem is you need to restraint yourself from wasting stamina on easier sections...not a big problem but annoying. Having your stamina wasted means that you won't be able to play consecutive 17s or 18s at your 7th credit.

These problems aren't too hard to deal with, since this is your 8th year playing DDR anyway as long as you keep playing. But still, it is quite surprising that I can play top 17s and 18s without getting too tired after being afk for some time.

The reason behind is clear though: I got better in playing BPM 200+ songs with the OVER200 folder during the latest event. High & Low and Panic Holic are very good songs and charts that I am happy to play over and over again, and there are 6 more similar charts with BPM 200+ songs in the folder.

The common feature of these new charts is that they all contain long 1/2 steams with 1/4 triplets inserted every 2 or 4 beats. They are combo intensive: High & Low and Panic Holic are about 600 combos, ノープラン・デイズ is of 650 combos and Sword of Vengeance is of 707 combos! They are not plainly streams either - ノープラン・デイズ consists of crossover streams and PANIC HOLIC has some single tap streams.

In short these are fast, intensive but not too straightforward charts.

In the past we usually say BPM 180 is fast in DDR. Then we received more BPM ~190 charts like HyperTwist, Our Love, AI and POSSESSION (20th Anniversary Mix). With the most recent folder it is clear that bar is once again speeding up. And since I play those fast charts over and over again, the older fast charts now look easier. 東京神話, New Decade and Endymion are the best examples.


Let us now take a step back and look at how charts within a MUG evolves over time. It is always a choice between speed and complexity, both of them with a limited inherited based on the design of the game. The speed limit of DDR is inheritably slower comparing to Taiko, a game that is played by hands. The complexity limit of pop'n on the other hand, is higher than iidx by having one or two more tracks. 

By saying limit it is the boundary where the song or the map  become absurd or inappropriate for the game. It is common to expect BPM 300 1/4 (or equivalently BPM 150 1/8 in Osu terms) in the hardest Taiko songs, but anything above BPM 220 1/4 is almost forbidden in DDR (except Lachyrma...). Similarly you see patterns in iidx that is not feasible in pop'n because players simply can't hit them (physically).

You don't make crazy maps at the very beginning, but you need to slowly increase the availability of mid-top difficulty maps as players start to get better. The key is to attract enough players and enter a stable state before the potential is fully exploited -- consider Beatstream as an example. A new map (Chernobog) was announced at its last KAC final (here is the video - start from 1:13:00). This map came with a new difficulty rating...and some extremely weird sliders. It made some noise but far not enough for the game to sustain. That slider was considered too absurd to play and not many were interested. Beatstream had no choice but to terminate its service and turn into Nostalgia. It was a good game, but it is not compatible with harder maps -- it's just a prettier and easier Reflec beat. It is still a good game though and should receive a mobile port.

Now for DDR the evolution at the frontline has always been very slow -- only about 25% lv 18 maps are DDR A or later (which is crazy as DDR A and later covered more than 25% of DDR's lifespan). On the other hand, maps around lv 12-15 are constantly evolving. We have been observing maps that should have been placed one level higher under older standards: take 腐れ外道とチョコレゐト (originally at lv 12 then to 13), Firestorm (hard lv13), スーパー戦湯ババンバーン (expert lv14) and Poppin' Soda (expert lv15) as examples. Although once again, these maps found themselves hard to fit in that level due to high BPM but not overly complicated patterns.

The phenomenon of not having well-rounded maps is even more severe for top tier maps. In fact, we haven't seen such maps for a long time. There are a few particularly gimmicky maps like Firestorm csp (16), Prey csp (18) and び csp (18), but you feel like they are made just for that gimmick instead of good maps in overall. One exception is perhaps 東京神話 esp (17). Is this what Konami thinks DDR should evolve into? When will we get new maps like Blew My Mind csp (18) or Trip machine evolution csp (18) again? 

A pass on a new lv 18 song is still a pass regardless of the quality of the chart and I am happy to keep the all clear lamp on the lv 18 folder. But a good chart will put a smile on your face and makes the twice a week routine of DDR practicing more enjoyable.


Past DDR entries:

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